THE SPRINGBOKS AND THE SOVIETS
The Reagan Administration's determination to allow the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, to begin a three-city U.S. tour this week as scheduled is ill-advised. Although the admission of individual South African athletes, like Gary Player and Johan Kriek, is a frequent and unobjectionable occurrence, the granting of visas to members of a national team is a different matter, because South Africa cynically seeks to use sports to legitimatize its abhorrent apartheid policies, just as the 1980 Moscow Olympics were used to showcase a Soviet regime that had just invaded Afghanistan. Having boycotted the '80 Games to protest that Soviet action, the U.S. should now be no less resolute toward a country, South Africa, over which it exercises far greater influence. It further happens that in regard to South Africa, ostracism is the official policy of most of the sporting world. As a result of Washington's stubborn show-must-go-on approach to the Springboks' tour, black African countries have threatened to boycott the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Jeopardizing an Olympics for the sake of three rugby matches is a questionable course.
Nevertheless, it's difficult to view with anything other than derision the news, as reported last week by The Washington Post, that if the Springboks' tour proceeds, the Soviet Union will urge at next week's International Olympic Committee Congress in Baden Baden, West Germany that the 1984 Games be moved out of the U.S. The Soviets may well regard such a campaign as a way to get even with the U.S. for boycotting the '80 Olympics, but the fact is that the U.S.'s welcoming of a South African national rugby team, wrongheaded though it may be, isn't nearly as reprehensible as the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The L.A. Olympics shape up as a showcase for American entrepreneurship and possibly some other things, but not for apartheid. One can only hope that the IOC will turn a deaf ear to any Soviet entreaties to move the '84 Games.
THE REAL THING
As a public service to baseball fans, here are the real major league standings as of Sunday night, the ones you would have seen in your newspapers if the game's elders hadn't tried to hype interest following the strike by concocting split-season miniraces quasi-culminating in semi-playoffs. You'll note that if the season hadn't been split, roughly half of the 26 teams would still have been involved in some pretty fair conventional divisional races. It seems to us those races would have been more interesting than the ones in progress.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
An elusive, five-pound, hatchery-reared coho salmon whimsically named John Beresford Tipton has anglers in the Pacific Northwest in a dither. Named by wags after the mysterious benefactor who gave Michael Anthony his assignment each week on the TV show The Millionaire, the specially tagged fish was released on Sept. 5 in Puget Sound as the prize in Schuck's Million Dollar Fish Derby, scheduled for the next day. Schuck's is an auto-supply company, and its derby was devised 1) to raise money for a local children's hospital, and 2) to draw approving attention to Schuck's. According to Schuck's, anybody who paid a $10 entry fee and was lucky enough to capture the tagged salmon between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on the appointed day would receive $1 million. Schuck's paid a $30,000 premium for an insurance policy that would provide the $1 million, then pledged that net proceeds would go to the hospital. The salmon worth a million clams had a coded identification tag fastened to its dorsal fin and a microscopic I.D. tag implanted in its nose to make doubly sure that nothing fishy went on.
There's no question that the price of seafood is high, but $1 million seemed a lot for a few pounds of lox. Accordingly, on Derby Day boat launching ramps and parking lots on Puget Sound were jammed with would-be millionaires, and bait and tackle rental shops quickly sold out. There were 12,410 entrants and, together with the usual Sunday-morning anglers, they made up the biggest fishing fleet anybody could remember seeing on the sound. Some of the entrants fished close to shore on the theory that a pen-reared salmon would stay in shallow water. Others worked farther out in the belief (correct, as it happened) that derby officials had released the salmon in deep water. But when the 6 p.m. deadline arrived, John Beresford Tipton hadn't been caught. Several excited entrants briefly thought they had won because they had caught tagged salmon. Those sorry souls were doomed to disappointment; their fish had been tagged for other purposes by state fisheries.
A spokesman for the insurance company that underwrote Schuck's policy pronounced himself "relieved" that nobody had collected the million dollars, but the quest for the coveted salmon didn't end there. By last weekend the fish still hadn't been reeled in, and new rewards were posted by various parties. An unidentified attorney offered $1,000 to anybody who caught John Beresford Tipton, while a Seattle radio station, KAYO, and one of its advertisers pledged $2,000 plus $1,000 to the children's hospital. A Seattle FM station, KBLE, also got into the act; in celebration of the fact that its frequency is 93.0, it offered a bounty of $93 a pound. With others thus trying to horn in on its successful promotion, Schuck's hurriedly got back in the picture by offering a new, $10,000 reward for the fugitive fish, with a Nov. 1 deadline. It's possible, however, that nobody will collect the loot. As the fevered quest for John Beresford Tipton continued, there was growing speculation that the prize salmon may already have fallen prey to killer whales or seals.
Blame this one on Montreal Gazette Columnist Nick Auf der Maur:
A duffer excitedly showed a golf ball to another fellow and gushed, "This ball is fantastic. You lose it in the rough and it emits little puffs of yellow smoke. Lose it in the woods and it sends out electronic pings. Knock it in the water and a little flotation collar pops out with a small flag."
"That's sensational," the other fellow said. "Where'd you get it?"
"I found it over by the second hole."
The Associated Press came out with its first weekly college football poll of the 1981 season early last week, and the ever-vigilant David Montgomery promptly began updating his statistics on the subject of the AP poll. In a labor of love, Montgomery, a state Health Department official in Lincoln, Neb., has pored over newspaper microfilm to research the results of all such polls since the first one on Oct. 20, 1936. Not just the final polls, understand, but every weekly poll during the season, too. According to Montgomery, there have been 492 weekly football polls so far, with 151 different teams appearing one or more times in the Top 20.
Notre Dame leads the way, having been in the Top 20 for at least one week in 44 of the 46 years of the AP poll's existence—398 weeks all told, well ahead of runner-up Ohio State, which has 347 Top 20 appearances. Michigan, which topped last week's inaugural AP weekly poll but should take quite a tumble this week following Saturday's 21-14 loss to Wisconsin (page 58), holds the record for the most consecutive Top 20 appearances with 149, a streak that spanned the 1970s, beginning on Oct. 28, 1969 and ending last Sept. 30 after the Wolverines lost two of their first three games of the 1980 season. Oklahoma currently has a 143-week streak, having been in the Top 20 every week since Dec. 2, 1970. The Sooners could break Michigan's record during the eighth week of this season.
Schools that have cracked the Top 20 at one time or another also include Lafayette, which was 18th, 18th and 19th in three polls in 1940, and Washington and Lee, which was 19th and 18th in the last two weeks of 1950. Schools with only one appearance include Williams (No. 20, Nov. 10, 1942), Muhlenberg (No. 19, Nov. 20, 1946), Catawba (No. 20, Dec. 2, 1947) and Bucknell (No. 20, Nov. 21, 1951). Brown is the only Ivy League school never to have made the Top 20. The University of Chicago never did, either; the inaugural AP poll came out the season after Chicago's Jay Berwanger became the first Heisman Trophy winner in 1935.
So much for the Top 20. Now for those schools that have been No. 1. Thirty-four teams have been voted tops in the country for at least one week, and again Notre Dame leads with 62 such appearances, followed by Ohio State with 57, Oklahoma 45, USC 42, Texas 37 and Michigan State and Alabama 28. each. Four teams have been No. 1 every week of a season—Notre Dame in 1943, Army in 1945, Nebraska in 1971 and USC in 1972. After their '72 sweep, the Trojans also were top-ranked the first three weeks of '73, giving them a record 17-week stay as No. 1.
Only one team ever lost its final game of the season yet retained its No. 1 ranking—Notre Dame, whose year-ending loss in 1943 was to Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Cornell is the only Ivy League school to be ranked No. 1, but its reign at the top, in each of the first four weeks of the 1940 season, occurred before there was an official Ivy League. Illinois and Indiana are the only Big Ten schools that haven't been No. 1. Northwestern has been top-ranked five different weeks vs. Penn State's four. Army has 27 No. 1 placements, Arizona State none. Those with exactly one week as No. 1: Arkansas, Boston College, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Dan Jenkins' alma mater, TCU (SI, Aug. 31), made it to the top of the weekly AP poll twice in 1938 but hasn't even cracked the Top 20 since 1962.
HOW ABOUT THE DELHI CONTESSAS?
Inspired by the fact that the Poca (W. Va.) High School football team is nicknamed the Dots and by the fact that there used to be a minor-league hockey team called the Macon Whoopees, one of our Florida-based correspondents, Charles Gillespie, thought of other communities whose names might lend themselves to similarly evocative nicknames like, say, the Tarzana Stripes or the Charlotte Tans. Thereupon Reporter Franz Lidz weighed in with the Spokane Words, Juneau Whats, Nome Chomskys, Pusan Boots and Algiers Hisses. Then somebody else thought of the Vichy Swabs and the Cali Flowers. And, of course, the Augusta Winds. And the Malta Milks. And...
Of all the pitchers George Brett has manhandled, none has been treated more rudely than Ed Figueroa. Over a span of seven seasons, Brett has gone 26 for 42, for a lusty .619 average, against Figueroa. After tours with the Angels, Yankees and Rangers, Figueroa was brought up from the minor leagues two weeks ago by the Oakland A's, but he didn't see action last weekend when the A's and Brett's Kansas City Royals, battling for the second-half lead in the American League West, met for the first time in 1981.
But you can bet that Figueroa took notes. On his way to last season's .390 batting average, Brett got just 10 hits in 43 at bats against Oakland for a .233 average. If he hadn't faced the A's he would have hit (sigh!) .406. Heading into Oakland on Friday, Brett had been on a .421 (8 for 19) tear in his last five games, but while Kansas City won two of the three games to move two games ahead of the A's, a quintet of Oakland pitchers—Matt Keough, Mike Norris, Steve McCatty, Jeff Jones and Tom Underwood—cooled Brett off considerably; he went a less-than-awesome 4 for 14. As for Figueroa, he actually sounded crushed that Oakland Manager Billy Martin hadn't seen fit to use him against the Royal third baseman. Seemingly drawing confidence merely from having joined the A's Brett-baiting pitching corps, Figueroa said bravely, "I wouldn't mind a shot at him again."
STAYING OUT OF THE LOSS COLUMN
Before the 1981 baseball season (Part 1) began, the Texas Rangers' rotund manager Don Zimmer, and Kansas City's equally ample pitching coach, Billy Connors, made a bet as to which of them would shed the most weight by the All-Star Game. But the strike intervened, apparently leaving Zimmer and Connors less opportunity to exercise and more to sit around and eat linguine with clam sauce, or the caloric equivalent thereof. This may explain how it came to be that when the delayed All-Star Game was finally played last month, Zimmer was one pound heavier than he had been in April, yet still won the bet. Connors had gained 10 pounds.
THEY SAID IT
•Lou Holtz, Arkansas football coach, proclaiming his dislike of road trips: "I play as well on the road as I do at home, but my teams don't."
•Kenny King, Oakland Raider running back, on the effect of the NFL's new ban on the use of stickum by pass receivers: "You'll still see great catches. They just won't be made with the elbows."
•Bobby Bragan, Texas Ranger administrative assistant, after a home game against the Blue Jays that included a promotional appearance by Clayton Moore, the original TV Lone Ranger: "It's not very often we get to see the Lone Ranger and Toronto the same night."